InSource Round Table Recap
At the most recent InSource Round Table, 13 creative leaders met at the SAS campus in Raleigh, North Carolina to discuss the key challenges facing in-house creative teams. From client requests and staffing to project management and proving creative contributions, the conversation addressed the issues head-on!
There were many topics discussed, but 3 major themes stood out:
- You are not alone in your creative challenges.
- Finding and retaining talented people is like trying to get a dog in (and keep it in) a bathtub.
- It’s an uphill battle to inspire change.
At the end of the day, some friends were made, some bad jokes were still bad, and some insights into solving in-house creative challenges surfaced. So stick around. You might learn something.
Theme #1: Getting the recognition your team deserves
In-house teams work hard to keep brand standards and crank out a boundless supply of high quality content, but recognition from other teams isn’t always there. A dedicated work ethic makes it seem like these resources happen in a timely fashion with minimal effort, but for others in the organization, there’s a shroud of smoke that hides what’s actually happening. So what’s the source of this misperception?
Since content creation has shifted from a more traditional print platform to online, there is an impression that web-centric projects require less effort and are faster to complete. The way end-customers want to receive their information has also multiplied, but the budget and resources allotted hasn’t.
Upward communication seems to be the root of these challenges. The key is finding the best way to educate the rest of the organization about the value an in-house team brings and the contributions it makes. Most importantly, in-house teams serve as the consultant for which strategies are the best and why — they aren’t just producers. By allowing in-house agencies to have a seat at the strategy table, companies will start to see a better return on their content investments.
But if you’re struggling to get your team that seat at that strategy table, you’ll need to build some personal relationships and, as SAS’s Steve Benfield says, “create your artificial water cooler.” Form alliances with the teams you see with budgets (like marketing and IT) because they were able to get their budgets through one key thing — metrics.
You’ll be able to work with them to get a holistic view of how the content your team produced contributed to ROI for the company. If you can show how your involvement with a piece of content produced better metrics, you’ll be well on your way to finding yourself one step closer to strategy discussions.
Of course, you’ll also need to start tracking key metrics for measuring you team’s success if you’re not already.
Theme #2: Finding (and keeping) outside talent that is actually good
Position for Hire:
- Complete all tasks to the highest standards and a little more
- Bring fresh, new, innovative ideas to the table — always
- Highly effective and really really really good communication skills
- Able to design, strategize, write copy, manage a website, manage all projects, train unicorns
Is that too much to ask?
You wouldn’t think so, because the market is saturated with freelancers right now, but when you’re strapped to find someone to produce great content for you at less than $75 per hour, it can be hard to get someone with the experience you need. The rub is that when you go ask for budget, and you say a good designer is going to cost you $200 per hour, you’re laughed out of the room.
For people outside the industry (i.e. finance, IT, etc.), it is hard to grasp the value of the work being produced, let alone the salary for someone to do it well.
On top of that, it seems like every time you get a good resource, get them trained , and familiar with your internal processes, they end up finding a full time job and you’re back at square one. And not only are you starting over looking for new talent, you’re going to lose time and money searching, retraining, and managing the next resource.
There’s a lot of work out there for freelancers, so simply having projects isn’t enough to bring in the top talent. So how do you find that superhuman that works well with your existing staff?
Those attending the roundtable have a solution — referrals. It seemed to be a universal feeling that recruiting firms and job boards just didn’t produce the type of candidates needed by top creative teams. By networking with other in-house creative teams in your area, you’re likely to find a few gems.
Why is this so effective? Well, when you form a strong business relationship with someone, it is because there is more than just business unity. There’s an alignment of personalities as well. So if you’re networking with like-minded individuals who have a rock-star freelancer, odds are that person will also fit with within your company culture.
Theme #3: Inspiring Change
This last challenge is a little more abstract and difficult to measure. It has less to do with measurable results and more about the intangible benefits of having a super-charged team of copywriters, designers, and content producers. You work with these people day in and day out. You spend more time with them during the week than you do with your own family. You know both their business and personal challenges. They are your friends. And as a creative leader you want to see them succeed.
But these people face a lot of stresses. There are tons of projects, tools, and daily distractions that can bog down momentum. When they work with a client, there may be personality quirks that make the experience worse than the conclusion of Lost.
So how do you keep people ahead of tasks while empowering them to set up an earthquake of transformation within your company? And how do you take it one step further by using that momentum to influence your peers?
Part of the challenge is making sure people aren’t drained from the onslaught of work, relationships, and technologies they use to get the job done. This means you have to think outside the list on their resume and look deeper at each person’s soft skills. Are they introverted? Extroverted? Do they typically produce better in the morning or afternoon? Do they mesh well with others, or do they tend to keep only a few close friends at work?
Consider the following situation. You have a client that uses your team from time to time to make instructional videos for your business unit. “Oh, no. Here comes Ralph asking for another project and about a million other things after we start the project.” Let’s just say that Ralph needs a lot of…coaching? Yeah, coaching. Odds are, Ralph probably doesn’t feel great about working with your team either. This sentiment is detrimental to inspiring inspiration.
Now think about your resources. If you have 2 videographers on your team — one with high technical skills and great technique and the other with average skills but great interpersonal communication — don’t just assign them to the project based on when the request comes.
So how do you use this situation to inspire change? Think about the client/creative relationship. You know Ralph’s going to need a lot of explanation, so consider assigning the videographer with better personal skills since the relationship will be better. Ultimately, you’re not simply producing a video. You’re setting up the potential to turn what is typically a rough exchange into a strong, established successful relationship. And, most importantly, you’ve helped your team become a little more inspired by setting them up to succeed.
Additionally, Ralph will talk to other teams about the positive experience and the goodwill you’ve spread will come back around when you need help — say when proposing a cooperative plan with marketing or IT. Notice how I tied it back to what said earlier?
Another tactic you can try is finding a champion in another group and become their best friend. Having that ally will make your life easier and you’ll be able to inspire change for your efforts through them. Use their goodwill to your advantage (altruistically of course). This is a tactic that InSource Board Member Ed Roberts has used in the past. When he needed to ensure brand standards were practiced across the company, he formed an alliance with the administrative assistants of the business unit leaders his team serviced. They served as his brand ambassadors, keeping an eye on presentations, letterheads, and other messaging.
To inspire change, you have to endeavor to help those around you succeed.
Hopefully, the discussions we had during the InSource roundtable helps you be a more successful creative team leader. If you have any questions, ideas, or try out any of these tactics, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below.